The Air Force supported firefighting efforts in Western Australia by delivering 50 bags of fire retardant powder to the state’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services on January 10.

A No. 36 Squadron C-17A Globemaster was used to make the important delivery to Busselton Margaret River Airport where civilian C-130 Hercules large air tankers used in firefighting are based.

The bags of fire retardant were provided by the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) and loaded onto the Globemaster at RAAF Base Richmond by No. 22 Squadron air movements’ personnel.

The NSWRFS keeps a supply of the retardant at Richmond as that is where the NSW air tanker fleet is based.

Commander Air Mobility Group Air Commodore Carl Newman said the COVID-19  environment presented challenges for the mission planners.

“State government restrictions arising from new COVID-19 cases coincided with the mission planning and execution on January 9, making this a dynamic scenario for everyone involved,” Air Commodore Newman said.

“One of our priorities was to minimise the risk of COVID-19 contact and transmission and we considered the alternative of using two C-130Js from Richmond to deliver the load over two days.

“Ultimately, using a C-17A allowed us to make the delivery to Busselton in a single lift and thus minimise the contact risks.”

The retardant was flown to RAAF Base Amberley and then to Busselton where it was unloaded by No. 25 Squadron air movements’ personnel who had travelled about 265km from RAAF Base Pearce.

In the first week of the Western Australian bushfires earlier this month, parts of Gingin and Dandaragan, north of Perth, were ravaged.

The C-17A mission to deliver the fire retardant was similar to Air Force’s efforts during the 2019/20 bushfire season.

Forklift driver Leading Aircraftwoman Sophie Berthelot with Western Australian Department of Fire and Emergency Services' member Michael Parker and Air Operations Manager Mike Stewart  at Busselton Airport. Photo: Leading Seaman Richard Cordell